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|Born||Harold Thomas Gregson
15 March 1919
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
|Died||8 January 1975
Porlock Weir, Somerset, England
|Cause of death||heart attack|
|Spouse(s)||Thea Gregory (1947–1975), 6 children (including John Gregson Jr, the retired headteacher)|
John Gregson, (born Harold Thomas Gregson, (15 March 1919 – 8 January 1975) was an English actor, credited in 40 films.
Gregson was born of Irish descent, and grew up in Wavertree, Liverpool, Lancashire, where he was educated at Greenbank Road Primary School and later at St. Francis Xavier's College. He left school at 16, working first for a telephone company, then for Liverpool Corporation, as the city council was then known, before the Second World War started. During this time, he became interested in amateur dramatics, joining first his local Catholic church theatre group at St. Anthony’s, Mossley Hill, and later the Liverpool Playgoers' Club.
After being demobbed in 1945, he joined the Playhouse in Liverpool for a year, before going on to Perth Theatre in Perth, Scotland. Here he met his future wife, actress Ida Reddish from Nottingham, who at the time was using the stage name Thea Kronberg and had recently arrived from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. In 1947 they moved to London and married there. They eventually had three daughters and three sons.
He was credited as 'John Gregson' in 40 films between 1948 and 1971 and on television from 1960 until his death. He was often cast as a police inspector or as a navy or army officer, or for his comedy roles in Ealing and other British films. One of his first appearances was in the film Saraband for Dead Lovers, a tearjerking romance starring Joan Greenwood and Stewart Granger.
Gregson's best known role was in the comedy Genevieve (1953), also starring Kenneth More, Dinah Sheridan and Kay Kendall. More was described as his "rival" in British cinema at the time, although Gregson tended to appear in fewer comedy films and more dramas. He also appeared in the Ealing comedies Whisky Galore!, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Titfield Thunderbolt. His best known drama films include The Battle of the River Plate, Angels One Five and Above Us the Waves. He was featured in The Treasure of Monte Cristo and had a role in Treasure Island. Gregson was still starring in film leading man roles in the early 1960s, his last being Tomorrow at Ten (1962). After that 'his film career faded after ten good years [1952-1962]'. He was one of many leading men & women of the 1950s (the others including Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Patrick Holt, Michael Craig, Sylvia Syms and Muriel Pavlow) who struggled to maintain their status as leads beyond the early 1960s. From 1963 onwards, Gregson never played another leading film role.
Gregson also worked on TV. In Ivor Brown's BBC TV play William's Other Anne he played William Shakespeare revisiting his first girlfriend Anne Whateley. TV work became increasingly important to him from the mid-'60s. He starred as Commander George Gideon in the 26 episodes of the series Gideon's Way (known as Gideon C.I.D. in America). He also appeared in The Saint with Roger Moore, and a popular comedy adventure series with Shirley MacLaine, Shirley's World. He took over from Kenneth More in long-running TV adverts for coffee on British television.
He appeared in It's the Geography That Counts, the last play at the St James's Theatre before its closure in 1957.
John Gregson died before retirement and suddenly from a heart attack near Porlock Weir, Somerset, aged 55, whilst on holiday, walking on the path to St. Beuno's Church, Culbone. He left a widow, Thea Gregory, and six children. His final television role was in the Southern Television serial Dangerous Knowledge, which was broadcast posthumously in 1976. His body was interred at Sunbury Cemetery, Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey near his family home at Creek House, Chertsey Road, Shepperton.
- London Belongs to Me (1948) - (uncredited)
- Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948) - (uncredited)
- Scott of the Antarctic (1948) - P.O. T. Crean R.N.
- Whisky Galore! (1949) - Sammy Mac Codrun
- Train of Events (1949) - Malcolm Murray-Bruce (segment "The Composer")
- The Hasty Heart (1949) - Raw recruit in jungle (uncredited)
- Cairo Road (1950) - Coast Guardsman
- Treasure Island (1950) - Redruth
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) - Farrow
- Angels One Five (1952) - Pilot Officer 'Septic' Baird
- The Brave Don't Cry (1952) - John Cameron
- Venetian Bird (1952) - Renzo Uccello
- The Holly and the Ivy (1952) - David Paterson
- The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953) - Gordon
- Genevieve (1953) - Alan McKim
- The Weak and the Wicked (1954) - Dr. Michael Hale
- Conflict of Wings (1954) - Cpl. Bill Morris
- The Crowded Day (1954) - Leslie
- To Dorothy a Son (1954) - Tony Rapallo
- Three Cases of Murder (1955) - Edgar Curtain ("You Killed Elizabeth" segment)
- Above Us the Waves (1955) - Lt Alec Duffy
- Value for Money (1955) - Chayley Broadbent
- Jacqueline (1956) - Mike McNeil
- The Battle of the River Plate (1956) - Captain Bell - H.M.S. Exeter
- True as a Turtle (1957) - Tony Hudson
- Miracle in Soho (1957) - Michael Morgan
- Rooney (1958) - James Ignatius Rooney
- Sea of Sand (1958) - Capt. Williams
- The Captain's Table (1959) - Capt. Albert Ebbs
- SOS Pacific (1959) - Jack Bennett
- Hand in Hand (1960) - Father Timothy
- Faces in the Dark (1960) - Richard Hammond
- The Frightened City (1961) - Renato
- The Treasure of Monte Cristo (1961) - Det. Insp. Sayers
- The Longest Day (1962) - British Padre
- Live Now, Pay Later (1962) - Callendar
- Tomorrow at Ten (1962) - Inspector Parnell
- Gideon's Way (1965–1966) (TV series) - Commander George Gideon
- The Night of the Generals (1967) - Colonel Sandauer
- Hans Brinker (1969) (TV) - Mijnheer Brinker
- Speaking of Murder (1971) (TV) - Charles Ashton
- Fright (1971) - Dr. Cordell
- Shirley's World (1971-1972) (TV series) - Dennis Croft
- Dangerous Knowledge (1976) (TV) - Bill Kirby (Last appearance)
Box office rankings
For several years British exhibitors listed Gregson as one of the most popular local stars at the box office.
- 1956 – 9th most popular British star
- 1957 – 4th most popular British star (7th overall)
- 1958 – 8th
John Gregson's son, John Gregson Jr, (a retired headteacher from Barnsley, South Yorkshire) has a page dedicated to his father on his photography website http://gregsonimages.co.uk/john-gregson-the-actor/ . The page includes lots of black and white photographs of John Gregson Snr.
During John Gregson Jr's BBC Eggheads appearance, the movie star's son announced "So, all that's left for me is to write his [Gregson Snr] life story".
- "Gregson Images, Barnsley".
- D. Quinlan, Quinlan's Illustrated Directory of Film Stars (1986 edition), p.179.
- Thespis, Plays, Films, Television, English, Summer 1953; 9: 179 – 18
- Shepperton Matters: Famous People of Shepperton Issue 17 February 2013 page 4 Nick Pollard of Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society
- "The Most Popular Film Star In Britain." Times [London, England] 7 December 1956: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- 'BRITISH ACTORS HEAD FILM POLL: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY', The Manchester Guardian (1901–59) [Manchester (UK)] 27 December 1957: 3.
- "BBC Eggheads, Episode Guide".